Mary Jean (Tomlinson) Harrold, a professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), died following a battle with cancer on Thursday, September 19, 2013.
Harrold graduated from St. Joseph High School of Huntington, W.V., at the top of her math class. She received her B.A. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics at Marshall University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh.
Before joining Georgia Tech, she served on the faculties of Clemson and Ohio State universities. At Georgia Tech, she founded the Aristotle Research Group and served as its principal investigator; the group focuses on development of efficient techniques and tools to automate software development, testing, and maintenance of software systems.
Harrold’s research on static analysis and testing of software is foundational. She was named an ACM Fellow in 2003 and an IEEE Fellow in 2011. A 2007 article in Communications of the ACM ranked her as one of the top software engineering researchers in the world.
Alessandro Orso, a colleague in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science, said Harrold "had a true passion for research and for collaborating with others, especially students, as it is evident from the long list of her co-authors. And other researchers loved working with Mary Jean; her never-ending energy, constructive and goal-oriented working style, sense of humor, and team spirit made it a pleasure to collaborate with her."
Harrold had a long record of service to the computing research community, serving as past Vice Chair and Secretary/Treasurer of ACM SIGSOFT, as well as having served on the editorial boards of ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology and ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. She was general chair of the 2008 ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering, program co-chair of the 2001 International Conference on Software Engineering, and program chair of the 2000 Internatinal Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis, and had served on the Computing Research Association (CRA) Board of Directors.
Harrold also was a fierce advocate for women and minorities in computing fields. At Georgia Tech, she was the NSF ADVANCE Professor in the School of Computer Science for 10 years, from 2001 to 2011; she also was a member of the Leadership Team and Director of the Georgia Tech Hub for the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Outside Georgia Tech, Harrold served many years (several as co-chair) on the CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), whose goal is to increase the number of women in computer science research and education. She was instrumental in establishing the biennial Software Engineering Educators' Symposium (SEES), which aims to forge ties between faculty at minority-serving colleges and software engineering researchers.
Orso said Harrod "loved teaching, working with, and advising students. She always had an insightful comment to guide a student along a promising path and an encouraging remark to keep a student engaged and focused on a worthy goal. Throughout her long career, she mentored countless students, and junior faculty as well, many of whom have become leaders in their own right. Everybody who interacted with Mary Jean was touched by her kindness, enthusiasm, energy, and love for life, and remembers her fondly. She was a magnificent role model, which many have emulated."
In an article on the Georgia Tech website, Harrold said she supported diversity in computing not only to help women and other underrepresented groups succeed in the field, but to make technology better for everyone:
"Women are good for computing; we need everyone we can get," she says. "The technology industry and its impact are everywhere. Those products need to be developed by a diverse work force, because they could potentially be used by a diverse consumer base. Diversity in software engineering ultimately makes for more usable products."
Harrold is survived by her husband of 45 years, Tom (Fuzzy) Harrold, sons Tom (Linda) Harrold of Virginia and Marc Harrold of Virginia; and two grandchildren.
A fellowship is being created in her name to assist graduate women in computer science; at press time, at least $10,000 had been assembled.